When I started blogging occasionally for Huffington Post, I resolved to confine my use of this platform to issues on which my professional background in constitutional and administrative law would give me (and any readers I might have) the advantage of some actual expertise.
On this particular occasion, however, with our political system seemingly stuck at the depths of dysfunction, I feel the need to rant. The occasion is yesterday’s speech by House speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to the Economic Club of Washington. This is how he summed up the current state of the economy: “Job creators in America are essentially on strike.”
To be “on strike” is a telling metaphor — especially interesting if one suspects, as I do, that Speaker Boehner is typically not in sympathy with strikes. To strike, by definition, is to refuse voluntarily to perform the work you would otherwise be doing — the kind of thing that right-wing pundits would normally call “extortion.”
So, I have a proposal. From now on, instead of using “job creators” to identify the businesses that are sitting on huge piles of cash, raking in unprecedented corporate profts, and benefiting from tax breaks and bailouts that have underwritten a cushy life for unaccountable CEO’s, let’s call them what they really are: “hostage-takers.”
The hostages are us.
The hostage-takers want you to believe that tax cuts are always good for the economy. So, how did we do after the Bush tax cuts? As summed up by Ronald Brownstein,
On every major measurement, the Census Bureau report shows that the country lost ground during Bush’s two terms. While Bush was in office, the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked. By contrast, the country’s condition improved on each of those measures during Bill Clinton’s two terms, often substantially.
The hostage-takers want you to believe that regulations kills jobs and, let’s face it, those child labor laws really did kill factory work opportunities for 10-year olds. But regulations can actually create jobs, by generating markets for new goods and services, and by boosting consumer demand as a result of increasing confidence in the marketplace.
Excessive regulation is hardly the problem that created the housing crisis and banking sector meltdown. Quite the reverse. So, to say that regulations per se are the enemy of growth is just wrong.
The hostage-takers want you to believe that all business needs in order to start hiring again is “certainty.” Guess what? There is no “certainty” in the economy; there is only risk. Political scientist Jacob Hacker has documented in compelling terms what he calls the “great risk shift” — the poisonous trajectory of right-wing public policy in which the corporate elite and their political allies have shifted economic risk from their shoulders and placed it on the shoulders of workers and the middle class, who now have less job security, fewer benefits, and a lower median wage, even as productivity improves.
I now have a modest proposal. Let’s stop negotiating with hostage-takers. Let’s stand up to them. Let’s insist that the machinery of government was not designed to accelerate the concentration of wealth in the hands of a very few, while the rest of the population experiences the worst poverty rate in decades and the most dramatic income inequalities in nearly a century. Let’s remind the hostage takers that ours was intended to be a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
And we don’t pay ransom.